Feleti Vakauta Sevele, Prime Minister of Tonga
Honourable Dr. Feleti V. Sevele was born on 7th July 1944 in Ma’ufanga, Nuku’alofa, Tonga. His parents were Mr Viliami Vaka’uta Sevele of Kolonga and Mrs Mele Yarnton of Ma’ufanga. He is married to ‘Ainise (nee Manu) and they have three children; Maliana, Frederick Stephen Jnr and Pisila Sevele.
Honourable Dr. Feleti V. Sevele started his primary education at the Catholic Primary School at the Ma’ufanga Convent before commencing his secondary education at ‘Apifo’ou College, Ma’ufanga for two years, 1956 and 1957.
In 1958 he moved on to St John’s College in Levuka, Fiji where he remained until 1961. He then attended the Marist Brothers High School in Suva, Fiji in 1962 before leaving for St. Bede’s College in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1963 to complete his secondary education.
In 1964 he entered the University of Canterbury in Christchurch and graduated in 1967 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economic Geography. He then went on to complete his Master of Arts degree with Honours in 1969 at the same University. Between 1970 and 1973, under a Commonwealth Scholarship, Hon. Dr. Feleti V. Sevele completed the requirements for his doctorate and graduated with a Ph.D. in Economic Development (Geography) from the same University of Canterbury.
Work & Professional Background
Upon returning to the Kingdom, Hon Dr. Feleti V. Sevele joined the Tonga Commodities Board as Board Secretary from August 1973 to October 1974.
The Commodities Board was a quasi-government body with three main functions: the processing of agricultural commodities for export, the export marketing of all Tonga’s agricultural commodities and a construction division which undertook all types of construction on a commercial basis.
In November 1974, he was appointed Chief Executive and Director of the Commodities Board a post he held until 1978. At that time, the Commodities Board was the second largest employer in the country with close to 1,500 employees with a turnover of around T$15 million per annum.
In 1978, he was appointed as Chief Economist for the South Pacific Commission (SPC), a post he held for six years. During this period, he was a consultant to various Governments in the South Pacific Region; authored many SPC publications; conducted numerous training courses throughout the region Project Planning and Analysis.
He also undertook work for ADB, UNCTAD, and University of the South Pacific. Between 1978 and 1982 Hon Feleti V. Sevele was a member of the Council of the University of the South Pacific.
Between 1984 and 1990 Hon Dr. Feleti V. Sevele was appointed by the Bishop Finau, the Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tonga, as Director of Catholic Education. He was the architect of the submissions to Government on state financial aid to non-governmental secondary schools. Government approved the submission and the system of State aid began in 1987. During this period he was also a freelance consultant and a businessman.
Between 1990 and 1992 he was an ADB funded Consultant to the Central Planning Department of the Government of Tonga and in 1993 to 1994 he was a as an advisor to the ANZ Bank and was instrumental in getting the ANZ Bank to set up in Tonga.
From 1990 to 1996 he was the Secretary General of the Tonga Amateur Sports Association & National Olympic Committee. He also served as a member and Chairman of the Tonga Rugby Union in the mid seventies.
Dr. Sevele is one of Tonga’s leading businessmen. From the mid 1980’s, Dr Sevele established a number of business ventures, including commercial farming, agricultural exports, retail and wholesale, financial and consultancy services, and real estate. These businesses are now being run by his wife and daughter, after he was appointed to Cabinet.
Hon. Dr. Feleti V. Sevele was elected as a People’s Representative to the Parliament of Tonga in 1999 and re-elected in 2002 and again in 2005.
On the 21st March 2005, Hon Feleti V Sevele was appointed by His Majesty King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV as Minister of Labour, Commerce and Industries and thus became one of the Kingdom’s first two Ministers to have been appointed from the elected People’s Representatives to Parliament.
He was again appointed to Acting Prime Minister on the 11th February 2006 upon the resignation of HRH Prince ‘Ulukalala Lavaka Ata in February 2006.
Honourable Dr Feleti Vaka’uta Sevele was appointed by His Majesty King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV as the 14th Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Tonga on 30th March 2006. He is the very first Tongan commoner to be appointed as Prime Minister of Tonga.